By Lewis Moore
The chessboard of North American boxing just saw a drastic shake-up of the key pieces.
Undisputed Super-Middleweight champion and boxing’s biggest star, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez announced last week via his Instagram that a deal had been struck between him and Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), effectively leaving streaming service DAZN.
While this is expected to be a three-fight deal, the exact details are as-of-yet unannounced in terms of potential opponents. However, rumours are amok that a fight with WBC Middleweight champion Jermall Charlo on Showtime PPV is likely the first fight of the deal for the Mexican superstar. With fights against David Benavidez and even Errol Spence apparently being options for the future.
While those exact details of the agreement are unknown, and while Canelos last venture with PBC only lasted for a single fight with Caleb Plant, it is expected that this deal will likely keep Canelo busy (and away from DAZN) for a while. And while most of the response to this deal has been centred around predictably childish point scoring from pro-PBC voices, combined with the jealous whinging of those partial to Matchroom, I find myself mulling over a simple question:
Who’s DAZN going to put their newly available 9-figure-sum towards?
As those aforementioned pro-PBC voices have (correctly) stated. This is a massive loss for DAZN. Canelo has been their No.1 attraction since his first fight for them back in DAZN’s inception in 2018. Since then they have promoted 9 of Canelo’s fights across the 5 year period. During which time he has been their poster boy, and their golden ticket to the minds of the casual sports fan for a platform dwarfed by sports broadcasting giants, such as ESPN in the States.
And with their second biggest North American attraction Ryan Garcia set to be sued by Oscar De La Hoya, whose exclusive deal with DAZN is the only thing keeping the superstar Garcia from scooting off to fight Rolly Romero on yet another rival platform in Showtime, DAZN find themselves in a bit of a crisis. But also, with a lot of free dosh to spend…
There lies my question, where is all this money going to go? Which lucky American/Mexican boxers are going to find themselves rich in the next few months? What matchups can fans expect to see for far above their market value (something DAZN are known for doing when needed)?
Canelo would typically get paid a hefty $25+ million sum for even a pedestrian mandatory fight such as a John Ryder, let alone super fights with the likes of Gennadiy Golovkin, who likely would’ve earnt him double or even triple that. DAZN have seemingly operated with Canelo on a flat fee basis, in the knowledge that a star of that magnitude is going to lure the eyes of the casual fan regardless. So where is this money going to go now?
2 Options For DAZN To Spend Some Of The Budget Previously Reserved For Canelo
I can’t see Devin Haney not being offered a piece of that nine-figure pie.
For me, it would be an obvious choice. DAZN have a need for a championship-level American boxer, one who can do good numbers, and whom they can feed at least a couple of noteworthy fights. Devin Haney ticks all these boxes so far.
The current undisputed Lightweight champion is fresh off a somewhat financially successful PPV alongside Vasiliy Lomachenko and has already shown interest in DAZN’s own Regis Prograis, who recently defended his WBC Super-Lightweight title in New Orleans live on the streaming service.
Putting the scoring controversy to one side, by all accounts Haney’s fixture with the popular Ukranian Lomachenko did a healthy 150K PPV buys and did a noble number at the gate in Las Vegas (est ~3m). Numbers that surely would grab the attention of Joe Markowski over at DAZN HQ.
Haney is a young 24-year-old, in the middle of a smoking hot 135/140lbs pair of divisions, and to top it all off, he has a rich history with DAZN and an apparently close relationship with Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn. When looking from the perspective of DAZN, what’s not to like?
Of course, Haney is just one option, and when the pot of gold is as deep as DAZN’s has been historically, why limit yourself to one fighter? Who himself can only get out twice a year? Haney isn’t going to cost as much as Canelo, probably a fraction of the cost. This leaves some wiggle room for even more interesting matchups.
One of these possibilities would be Eddie Hearn’s new favourite toy, Puerto Rican ticket seller Edgar Berlanga, who’s now settled in nicely at DAZN, with his recent 12-round unanimous decision win against Jason Quigley over the weekend.
Coming off the back of a sold-out MSG theatre and an enjoyable (if not quite as impressive as it should’ve been) victory over Ireland’s Quigley, I’m sure some exciting Super-Middleweight matchups could be on the horizon for Berlanga.
One which ticks a lot of boxes would be a clash with Mexico’s Jaime Munguia.
Munguia, also a resident at DAZN, was last seen in action a few weekends ago in a fight-of-the-year contender against seasoned veteran Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Where the Mexican escaped a draw after knocking down his Ukranian foe in the 12th round to earn himself a narrow UD win.
Munguia and Berlanga seem a natural pair; they share the same age (26), they are in each other’s weight class, they are both coming off 12-round thrillers and so are on the same timeline, they exhibit a classic ‘Mexico vs Puerto Rico’ matchup, and one is a big ticket seller in the East coast with the other also selling well in the West. Both are gifted punchers and both are in need of a signature victory.
Long has Munguia been kept fighting a lower level of competition, despite being a former world champion at 154lbs. A step up in a notable contest for him has been in demand from fans for some time. Golden Boy seems to be playing the long game, and that’s even if they have a plan at all… If DAZN is interested in the ‘next generation’, Munguia versus Berlanga is a fight that’ll get people talking, and indeed a fight that would undoubtedly create a new major player in the same division that Canelo himself still resides in.
Of course, as always in boxing, there is at least one significant hurdle. While Munguia’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya might be in the middle of his lawsuit with Ryan Garcia, the former six-division champ turned matchmaker has found enough time recently to reignite his strange feud with Berlanga’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
With the pair exchanging ‘pleasantries’ over Twitter even while Berlanga was fighting in the ring. While it wouldn’t be the two making the fight between them exactly, the awkward void between De La Hoya’s Goldenboy and Hearn’s Matchroom still exists despite them both being on the same network (the obstacle which prevents most cross-promotional fights from being made).
However, if DAZN indeed wants to get fight fans talking, splashing some cash at this potential clash and forcing their two main matchmakers to squash their (incredibly childish) beef, would certainly achieve that goal.
When boxing actually puts together a sensible, well-matched and interesting matchup, fans respond in an overwhelmingly positive way… and usually with their wallets. A fight between two young 168lbs contenders who reside on the same network and are both in need of a big fight, should not be hard to put together. Matchups such as Munguia-Berlanga have enough sex appeal to inject some adrenaline into the DAZN schedule, at a time when their two major Stateside stars appear to be on the way out (indeed, one of them is long gone).
While DAZN’s long-term standing in the grand old US-of-A seems to be in an all-time vulnerable position, if DAZN plays their cards right, they should be able to give Matchroom and Goldenboy one hell of an arsenal, with the basic instruction of… find our next superstar.
When it comes to Haney, who knows if he will be interested in a long-term deal, who knows if Top Rank or PBC wouldn’t be able to lure him into their net before Hearn can make his move. But I can’t see the young man from California being overlooked in DAZN’s search for a prominent, blue-chip star. In the same way, I cant see DAZN overlooking an exciting, in-house blockbuster that could be made before the year’s end.